The push for positive patient experiences is changing the way CIOs approach their work, using artificial intelligence to make better use of patient data.
As healthcare organizations continue to focus on driving positive patient experiences, it’s changing the way healthcare chief information officers are looking at their jobs. No longer are CIOs simply looking at new ways to process and use data, but they are looking at how systems impact the patient.
Positive patient experiences need to go beyond strong patient-provider interactions and amenable facilities, although those factors are still important. Creating a positive patient experience must also include efficient care that connects patients with the right type of treatment, which requires providers to have the right kind of patient information.
And CIOs are starting to recognize that.
A 2018 survey from Impact Advisors and the Scottsdale Institute found that 80 percent of CIOs rank digital health and the patient experience as top healthcare priorities. And while much of that may include patient-facing tools such as wearable sensors or care management apps, CIOs are also putting a lot of weight on provider-facing data and processes that help them do their jobs better.
And this is pushing more healthcare organizations to implement cutting edge technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
At Sarah Cannon, the cancer care network for HCA Health, AI has revolutionized how providers can deliver a positive patient experience, Andy Corts, the CIO at Sarah Cannon, said in an interview with PatientEngagementHIT.com.
Specifically, Sarah Cannon has used AI to enhance its patient navigator services, which are at the center of its cancer treatment protocol.
Too often, patients receive poor cancer care navigation because they are working with providers who are strapped for time and who cannot deliver the quality care they and their patients want.
Patients typically receive a cancer screening as a part of their primary and preventive care. But when that screen comes back with bad news, primary care providers do not have the time to adequately address the issue, Corts said.
This is not for lack of trying, Corts added. Most healthcare experts prefer patient-provider communication over other aspects of their job and perceive their patient relationships as a key driver of job satisfaction.
But the fact of the matter is most primary care physicians do not have the time to address the next steps in a patient’s cancer care journey, leaving the patient to fend for themselves.
“Can you imagine what it was like to get that cancer diagnosis and probably rely on word of mouth with your friends who also potentially had that type of complex GI cancer and you had asked them where they went?” Corts posited. “The burden would be on you to go get an appointment with that center. The burden would be on you to go navigate your own journey.”
Sarah Cannon patient navigators take some of this burden off of the patient. When a patient has received a cancer screening at an HCA Health facility, a Sarah Cannon patient navigator is in charge of referring that patient to the best care services for their disease progression.
Patient navigators can get patients in the door for different procedures, recommend different services, and help patients connect with other resources that will make their cancer treatment process easier.
And while patient navigators help the patients, AI can help the navigators.
Before AI, patient navigators were in charge of sifting through all of the pathology data to flag patients who may need intervention. This was an incredibly inefficient process, Corts explained.
“If you look at pathology reports, every single pathology report that enters at HCA is not structured. It’s dictated by a pathologist,” he stated. “Our navigators had to take time out of their day to get a stack of pathology reports, read through them, and determine which patients that they should call.”
AI has presented itself as a solution to this problem. Sarah Cannon uses an AI system called Digital Reasoning that looks through different patient reports and their medical records to queue them up for the patient navigators.
“That’s all driven through the beauty of AI and the fact that patient navigators don’t need to spend these two or three hours now a day identifying patients,” Corts noted. “The system does it for them. We’ve been able to touch a number more of patients, they’ve been able to navigate a number of more patients because of the efficiency gain that AI has gotten our navigators. That has truly driven a differential for our cancer centers and certainly for our navigation programs.”
Using AI to assist patient navigators has a direct impact on the patient experience, Corts said. It grants these medical professionals more time to spend with patients and makes the process more efficient, ultimately easing the cancer care journey, he explained.
But there are still areas for improvement, Corts said. AI has the power to better target patient care pathways, which often reveal themselves in the initial pathology report. Instead of asking patient navigators to sift through patient data to indicate those care pathways, the practice plans to use AI to auto populate those directions into the medical record.
“That data entry is yet another burden on our navigators that if they didn’t have to do that data entry, they could be navigating our patients,” Corts explained. “We want AI to not only read and classify a document as a breast cancer patient, but also be able to pull out the key text that was previously unstructured and pre-populate fields that are required in order to kick off a care pathway. That is adding yet more capacity to our navigators at the end of the day so that they can engage more and more patients.”
Although AI may be one of the more futuristic investments Sarah Cannon is making, it is not the only technology that has Corts rethinking the patient experience. The CIO is also looking into omni channel patient communication platforms.
Patient navigators can often find themselves playing a game of phone tag with patients. And while phone calls are still best for patients who prefer them, there are other patient populations who want more immediate communication channels.
“We’re looking at tools to change the game of patient navigation,” Corts said. “That can include this whole idea that we can text patients and they can respond securely in text. We can kick off a phone call but have them respond via email. We can manage our patient preferences a lot more. We think that will truly drive yet the next layer of efficiencies for our navigators.”
Additionally, government efforts to put patients at the center of their health information sharing will enhance the role of the patient in their own healthcare while making it easier for their providers to care for them.
“If you imagine a world where the patient has all the same data sets that the physician does, and the fact those data sets are delivered in a structured compatible way, we can take our same algorithms that are doing clinical trial matching, and expose that directly to the patients so they can better navigate,” Corts explained.
The healthcare industry is a world driven by data. As healthcare organizations continue to strive for a more positive patient experience, organization leaders will need to leverage that data to do so. By using AI, providers will know more about their patients in a more efficient manner, making that healthcare experience better.
Date: April 10, 2019